Put off that you didn’t get a piece of the Facebook IPO today? Don’t be. It’s not a great investment for the individual investor.
First, the personal reasons.
When Facebook first became popular, it was an easy, voyeuristic way to have a view into our friends’ lives. Many of us kept it live on our desktop computers all day so we could pop in at any given time and see –linearly–what was going on. If we missed a post we could scroll down–again, linearly, and find what we missed. Simple to use and understand.
And then, like with all good things, Facebook started to mess with its product.
More –and more complicated — settings.
A posts feed that defaulted to what Facebook considered our “top stories,” based their own algorithm, not our personal parameters.
Then, a tiny, Twitter-like newsfeed appeared in our screen’s upper right corner. That replaced what our page used to look like. Blink and miss the 25 updates that just happened.
How about a home page that is no longer linear or chronological? Just try to find your own most recent posts. And posts by others are grouped together elsewhere.
And “chat” –messaging that appears onscreen like a text or an IM. Is it a message? an IM? a text? All three? Is this what we want? To be assaulted by messages on our screens? Ding! Ding! Ding!
On my Facebook page, it looks like status updates from many favorite friends have disappeared, in favor of updates from special interest fan pages. I like special interest pages but I’d rather see posts from my circle of friends. I can tweak settings all I like, my familiar friends still don’t often appear on my page. The choices FB makes are inexplicable.
I’m sure some of this can be fixed by taking time to learn the ins and outs of setting modification. But that’s become mysterious, complex and continuous. Too much effort for how much I care. Which is to say, less and less.
But then, it’s often the case. A good product gets messed with so much people drop off.
Do you even know you can pin a post for a week? Define Milestones? Also thrown on the page are Views and Apps. Places. Likes. And that’s the issue–stuff is thrown on the page without regard for how people consume information. It’s like the early days of “desktop publishing” when people without any design sense went wild.
For me, Facebook’s becoming just too much work for too little payoff. I’m spending way less time there, and, I notice, so are many of my friends. That is, I notice it when I make the effort to click on their profiles to see comments that no longer appear on my own screen.
Related to this more closely than Facebook might want to admit is the business case: serious questions about how Facebook is going to raise its revenue to match its inflated valuation. HERE is a great visual on the complexities of social media marketing today. Some companies have given up completely on social media marketing. Facebook’s a social media leader, but there’s a plethora of options and always ‘the next best thing’.
Good questions are being raised about the number of people accessing Facebook on mobile phones and how on earth the company can monetize that without driving users away. Ads on mobile phones will be tricky.
The Wall Street Journal’s got a great article on some of the challenges of the Facebook model. Click HERE.
Don’t get me wrong. People are still using Facebook a whole lot and I think they will for a while. It just doesn’t look like the business model is predictable enough or sustainable–both keys to a good, long-term investment for the individual investor.